Judge orders $120,000 set aside in DHHS lawsuit

This waterfront property in Owls Head, that was valued by the town at nearly $500,000, was sold by the state for $205,000 while its owner was in a psychiatric hospital.
This waterfront property in Owls Head, that was valued by the town at nearly $500,000, was sold by the state for $205,000 while its owner was in a psychiatric hospital.
Posted July 03, 2013, at 11:35 a.m.
Last modified July 03, 2013, at 2:28 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge has ordered that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services transfer $120,000 to an account that will be used in the event that a woman wins her lawsuit claiming that the state and a bank mishandled her brother’s estate.

Justice Andrew Horton issued his order Monday in Knox County Superior Court in the lawsuit filed in May by Claire Dean Perry of Liberty against DHHS, Key Trust Company National Association, and her 67-year-old brother William T. Dean Jr.

Perry claims in her lawsuit that her brother took more than his share of a joint trust account and that after he was hospitalized in 2012 at the state-run Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor, DHHS sold off his oceanfront home at less than half its market value, disposed of personal belongings, and euthanized his cat. Key Trust was named because Perry claims the bank allowed her brother to improperly and largely deplete the joint trust account and failed to keep her informed of transactions.

Both the state and Key Trust have filed responses in court, denying any wrongdoing.

The deadline for the parties to the lawsuit to produce documents for the other parties has been set for March 2, 2014.

DHHS obtained conservatorship of William Dean’s property in September 2012 after filing a motion with the Penobscot County Probate Court, a move family members said they were not notified about before the action was taken. The state said it needed to be appointed legal financial manager for Dean, saying he was incapacitated and that his property at 9 Castlewood Lane in Owls Head and his home at 298 Broadway in Rockland were close to being foreclosed on by those municipalities for nonpayment of property taxes.

The Owls Head property formerly owned by Dean consists of nearly 1 acre with 100 feet of frontage on the ocean. A two-story, 1,000-square foot home is located near the shore.

The state put the Owls Head and Rockland properties on the market in November 2012. The initial asking price for the Owls Head property was $340,000, but two weeks later it was reduced to $299,000. The state sold the property on Jan. 9 to James Taylor, who lives in both Danvers, Mass., and Owls Head, for $205,000.

The town had the property assessed at $476,840.

Perry argues in the lawsuit that the fire-sale approach being used by the state would waste Dean’s assets of which she had an interest.

The Owls Head home had been bought by the Dean parents in 1972 and had been a regular gathering spot for family outings.

In addition to the sale of the property, the sister stated in the lawsuit that DHHS euthanized her brother’s beloved cat Caterpillar and sold his cherished Cadillac without the family being notified. The human services department has also failed to give a full accounting of numerous personal items that had been in the homes, reportedly including musical instruments such as expensive organs and other unspecified family heirlooms, according to the suit.

Perry’s attorney Cynthia Dill said Wednesday that DHHS has agreed to move some items it has in a storage unit in the Bath/Brunswick area to one in Warren until the case is settled.

DHHS’ conservatorship ended on May 2.

Stephen Betts can be contacted at sbetts@bangordailynews.com or @Scoopbetts.

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